INTRODUCTION Comparing Dissociative Ability of Musicians and Non-MusiciansGuralnik, et al (2000) noted that neodissociation theories view dissociation as reflective of mechanisms all people use to varying degrees. The central premise is that dissociation involves a weakening of the highest order executive control functions that leave infrastructures more freedom to operate independently. Irwin (1999) explained, “Mental processes such as thoughts, memories, feelings, and a sense of identity are ordinarily integrated. Dissociation is defined as a structured separation of such processes.” Psychological absorption is the key nonpathological dimension of the dissociative domain. Irwin said that psychological absorption is a total attention that involves a full commitment of available perceptual, motoric, imaginative and ideational resources to a unified representation of the attentional object. The ability to achieve this state has a normal distribution in the general population and shows the same statistical characteristics of other personality traits or dimensions. Colin Ross also notes that dissociation occurs in the general population in a bell-shaped curve. Ross comments that at a movie theater, one can be so absorbed in a movie that one enters a dissociative state. One does not realize they are in an altered state of consciousness until the movie hits a dull patch or someone gets up to go for popcorn. This experience occurs within the absorption/imagination involvement factor of the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES). A parent reading a child’s book aloud for the hundredth time may suddenly return to consciousness and become aware that they have completely blanked out the last three pages. This is an example of normal amnesia and belongs to the second DES factor. Many people who drive cars have had the experience of coming to, suddenly aware that they are amnesic for the last few blocks. It is also normal for the world and one’s self to become unreal as one falls asleep, when they are very tired, during extreme trauma, during a fever, or under the influence of some drugs. These fall within the depersonalization/derealization factor of the DES. Everyone daydreams and this too is a dissociative state. Without the desire for orgasm, the race would not be propagated. Such states are wonderful, desirable and healthy, in their natural form. That is why the psychiatry of dissociation has a goal of substituting healthy, normal altered states for self-destructive painful ones. Dissociation is a normal human function unless it crosses into the area of the diagnostic criteria where symptoms interfere with function or cause significant personal distress (Ross, 1996). Many articles and studies have discussed and studied the ability of athletes to dissociate, that is, to get “in the zone” which is a form of dissociation. This being in the zone is, as Irwin commented, a “total psychological absorption” in the task at hand. Dr. Matthew Gilmore, chairperson of the music department at Missouri Western State College, said that he believes musicians who are performing should be zoning, that is, being totally absorbed in their performance. Jerry Anderson, head of keyboard studies concurred, saying that musicians who zone perform better than those who do not and that zoning enhances memorization. The current study is to discover whether musicians have a greater ability to dissociate and if they dissociate more than the average person.
Data were collected from 30 students and faculty members at Missouri Western State College who are non-musicians. Data were also collected from 30 students and faculty members, in the music department of Missouri Western State College, who are performing musicians. The participants were given a survey containing 20 questions about dissociation
A survey was constructed to measure the level of dissociation of the participants. The survey contains 20 questions regarding dissociation and is based on a Likert-like scale. The questions could be answered by circling numbers from 1– never to 5– always. There were three questions dealing with age, gender and whether the participant is a musician or non-musician. The questions were formulated after reviewing the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) and the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (DDIS). To view the Decker Dissociation Scale see Appendix A.
The Decker Dissociation Scale was administered to Group A, consisting of the 30 participants who are performing musicians, many of whom were students in Musicianship V class. It was also administered to Group B, consisting of the 30 participants who are non-musicians, many of whom were students in a Psychology 101 class. The scores between the two groups were compared using an independent-samples t test.
RESULTS The expected results were that musicians would have a better ability to dissociate and a higher level of dissociation than non-musicians. An independent-samples t test was calculated comparing the mean score of participants identified as musicians to the mean score of participants identified as non-musicians. No significance was found (t(58) = .173, p > .05). The mean of the musicians (m = 56.67, sd = 11.27) was not significantly different from the mean of the non-musicians (m = 56.20, sd = 9.60).
DISCUSSION The results of this study were surprising. Musicians seem to be absorbed in their music and to have more concentration when performing. Dr. Matthew Gilmore, chairperson of the music department at Missouri Western State College, had said that he believes musicians who are performing should be zoning, that is, being totally absorbed in their performance. Jerry Anderson, head of keyboard studies in the music department, concurred, saying that musicians who zone perform better than those who do not and that zoning enhances memorization. The results of this study, however, would indicate that musicians do not have a higher level of concentration than the average person. If this study were replicated the sample size could be increased. Also non-college persons could be surveyed. Perhaps college students and professors, or just being associated with higher education, results in a higher ability to dissociate; or perhaps being more dissociative results in seeking higher education. Although no statistics were calculated for them, it appears that older (i.e., over age 35) persons tended to have higher levels of dissociation. Also females appeared to be more dissociative, on the average, than males. In any replications, questions 1 and 20 should be replaced or removed because all participants tended to answer them at the higher end of the scale. It would appear that Colin Ross, H. J. Irwin and O. Guralnik were all correct when they said that everyone dissociates to some degree. Dissociation does appear to have a normal distribution, or bell-shaped curve occurrence, in the general population. Perhaps it is a personality trait that helps people survive traumas and helps untraumatized people to excel.
REFERENCES Guralnik, O., Schmeidler, J., & Simeon, D. (2000). Feeling unreal: Cognitive processes in depersonalization. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157, 103-109. Irwin, H. J. (1999). Pathological and nonpathological dissociation: The relevance of childhood trauma. Journal of Psychology, 133, 157-164.Ross, C. A. (1996). Dissociative Identity Disorder: Diagnosis, Clinical Features, and Treatment of Multiple Personality. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.